06 September, 2014

St. Margaret's Church, Binsey

Last weekend, we visited an important Oxford site. Surprisingly, despite having lived in and around Oxford for the past seventeen years, we had only just become aware of its existence. What drew our attention to it was the mention in the Author's Note of Alison Mercer's novel 'After I Left You'.

The site in question was St Margaret's Church in Binsey. Binsey is a tiny village, just to the west of Oxford. You can reach it by walking along Binsey Lane, which links Botley (Oxford's western suburb) to the village. Binsey itself boasts the church, a pub and a handful of houses. Although the church is little visited and very peaceful (you reach it via a lane leading away from the main village), it is flanked, just a few fields away, by the A34, and you can hear the muffled roar of traffic as you approach.

The church is beautiful -- rebuilt on the site of a Saxon church in the 13th century, with additions in the 14th and 15th centuries. Although tiny, it still hosts services, weekly during the summer, and monthly at other times of the year.

Legend has it that St. Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford, built an oratory at the site in Saxon times. In the churchyard stands St. Margaret's Well. The story goes that a spring appeared here in answer to St. Frideswide's prayers, and the well subsequently became a focus for pilgrimage in medieval times.

After having soaked up the tranquil atmosphere of the church, we retraced our steps to Binsey's pub, The Perch (which is far more touristed than the church!), and enjoyed a drink sitting in the sunshine in the garden there.

On the walk home along Binsey Lane we picked lots of blackberries, which we used to make a blackberry and apple crumble -- lovely!

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